|“I have been impressed by the rapid growth of the Indian economy, and the booming indian wine market”.
South Australia, with its capital at Adelaide, produces 50% of all Australian wines: its 563 wineries made 724 million litres in 2007 (out of a total of 1.4 billion) and exported wine worth A$ 1.4 billion (Rs. 5,180 crore). Its wine regions are legion: the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra are home to many of Australia’s best-known wineries.
These include Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Petuluma, Shaw & Smith, Torbreck, Grosset, Majella, d’Arenberg, Hardys, and Sepplt (to name just a few). Loxton winery which Champagne Indage bought is also based in South Australia. The Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, who was in India in mid-March 2008 leading a 26-strong delegation of businessmen and industrialists to promote investment, education and migration, spoke to Alok Chandra in an exclusive interview for Sommelier India about wines from his state, the wine market in India, and areas where the two could meet.
AC: Premier, could you tell us something about the history of wine in South Australia?
MR: Wine production in South Australia goes back 170 years, and we are proud of the fact that the very first case of Australian wine to be presented to Queen Victoria was sent in 1843 from Adelaide! South Australia is today home to some of Australia’s best-known wineries, and wines from here are exported world-wide, having increased in value from A$ 20 million in 1992 to A$ 1.4 billion last year.
I have been involved with the wine industry ever since I brought Cordon Blue and Swift Hospitality to South Australia 18 years back – there is a close connection between food and wine, and in SA we have a very strong programme to improve standards and quality level in both these fields.
AC: What do you know of the wine scene in India and how do you perceive this developing?
MR: This is my third visit to India, and each time I have been impressed by the rapid growth of the Indian economy, and the booming wine market here which – although presently small – reflects the amazing changes taking place here. India is a market with huge growth potential in many areas, and we are very eager to be a key player in this future, both by way of exports of wine from Australia as well as in related fields of hospitality and education.
However, the regulatory regime in various states is a big impediment. When in Delhi earlier this week I met, both, the Ministers of Finance as well as Commerce, and impressed on them the need to progressively further reduce the customs duties on wine – which at 150% are among the highest in the world – so as to facilitate the availability of good-quality wines to Indian consumers as well as to foster the competitive climate so necessary for the development of your own wine industry.
AC: What role do you envisage SA can play in the wine industry in India?
MR: Well, South Australia delivers excellent quality-to-cost wines and obviously we would like to see more wineries tying-up with Indian importers to market some of these excellent wares here. One promising trend is the increasing level of investments in this industry, both by Australian companies in India and vice versa: Château Indage had acquired Tandou (in the Riverland area) for A$10 million last year, and has just announced the acquisition of another winery (Loxton, also in the Riverland area) for A$60 million. This trend should gather momentum in the future.
Another area where SA has a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise is in Wine Technology and Education: again, Indage has taken the lead by tying-up with the University of Adelaide to set up a facility in Maharashtra for technical courses in wine production. And TAFE SA (the largest provider of vocational education and training in South Australia) has been discussing the possibility of starting Wine Certification courses in India.
Of course the best way for anyone to understand what South Australia has to offer is to actually visit us, and there is good potential for wine tourism as the wine country near Adelaide is just beautiful.
There has also been a 10-fold increase in the number of Indian students in Australia in the last 10 years and this is another field where I think there is tremendous potential. We have the Carnegie Mellon Heinz School at Adelaide where 96% of the full-time resident students are from overseas, and there is a vibrant Alumni Association in most of the big Indian cities.
I am also quite enthused by the potential for locales in South Australia being used for making Indian films – in fact, both my wife and I acted in “Love Story 2050” with your Priyanka Chopra and thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
AC: Sir, any message for readers of Sommelier India, The Wine Magazine?
MR: There are some tremendously good wines coming out of South Australia, only a few of which are as yet available in India, so I look forward to more of these wines being appreciated here, and more wine aficionados coming to visit us ‘down under’.
As for Sommelier India, just keep up the good work, mate!